One of my favorite off the beaten path day trips has to be around Grafton, a quiet 40 minutes northeast of Albany.
I have no idea where to eat around here, so I always pack a picnic, but there are three really fun places to make a day out of.
The first stop is the Berkshire Bird Paradise Sanctuary and Botanical Gardens. The joint is open seven days a week 9-5, and it’s really kitschy. It’s $8 to get in, but well worth it, and the price goes to help feed and care for the birds. The man who runs the place is a veteran, so naturally I got to chatting with him. He told me all about the Afghan Eagle he has that was rescued by Navy Seals, and many of the other birds. Some of my personal favorites are the Emus and the Green Aracari Toucanetes.
The place is a total trip and you will probably have it all to yourself.
The next stop is the Grafton Peace Pagoda, another spot that makes you feel like you’re in a different world.
These grounds are free to enter, and this is one of only two Peace Pagoda’s in the US. The Pagoda is a symbol of non-violence. It is a masterpiece, absolutely beautiful, but there is nothing inside it! You can walk around the perimeter reading the teachings of Buddha.
You can walk around the grounds admiring the beauty, and you can make a prayer in the small temple.
After a day of interesting sights, you may want to go to Grafton Lake State Park for something a bit more familiar (there is a parking fee if you do not have the Empire State Parks Passport). Here is a lovely beach for relaxing. There is a roped off swimming area, but it is usually filled with kids. You can hike around the lake and find a quieter place to swim about half way around, maybe bring your towel there if you like solitude. The hike is beautiful and full of wildlife, just be aware the path is a bit gnarled with rocks and roots so wear good shoes.
You can rent a kayak or canoe and paddle around the lake, one of my favorite activities.
I really love these peculiar places, and they’re so close to home.